Pandora the Curious

13547083Pandora the Curious by Joan Holub

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my daughter’s collection

Length: 256 pp

Publisher: Aladdin

Year: 2012

In this ninth installation in the GoddessGirls series, Pandora opens that bloody box. The Titans, Epimetheus and Prometheus, are new students at Mount Olympus Academy and they are rather outcasts for the role the Titans played in the war between the Titans and Olympians. Spoiler alert: the Titans lost. Epimetheus has a box with him that makes odd noises and, of course, Pandora is intensely curious about it. When the godboys decide to play a game of keep-away with the box, it falls into Pandora’s hands without anyone noticing and it opens. Almost as if it were fated to do so. Huh. The box contained ten bubbles, which all floated out except one. Pandora seems to be the only one able to see the bubbles, so she is also the only one able to observe the effects of the bubbles bumping into people. So when Athena, for example, is bubble-bumped, Pandora hears it whisper “Ditz” and then Athena turns stupid. Similarly, another bubble bumps Aphrodite and whispers “rude,” and Aphrodite proceeds to become a vulgar and disgusting example of everyone one ought not to do, ever. Pandora doesn’t know whether or not to trust the Titans with this information, because she thinks they may have come to MOA to help take over and pave the way for a new Titan war against the Olympians. She has to decide who to trust and figure out how to reverse the effects of the bubbles before all hope is lost. See what I did there?

As with all the previous books in this series, Pandora the Curious provides an excellent way to begin teaching younger readers about the Classical myths. This one also provided a good example of troubleshooting and problem solving as well as making sure to give people second chances and not to judge based on a group but rather on an individual basis. Pandora learns a lot about herself and how curiosity can be both good and bad, depending on how it is used. She also learns that just because a person is a Titan and fought against the Olympians doesn’t make them a bad person and she should always take an individual approach to judging someone. This was a good way to talk about a variety of social issues with my daughter. We see in the news a lot of racism and sweeping generalizations made about entire groups of people. So we had a chat about how any group of people can include bad people, but that we should always try to get to know the person in front of us and not judge them or assume they are bad just because someone else like them did a bad thing. That’s no way to live.

Overall, the series has piqued my daughter’s interest in mythology, all kinds, not just Greco-Roman. At the end of the day, even if some of the stuff is silly or trite, I can live with that because of the interest it’s sparked in her for better things.

 

 

 

Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy

13228487Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my daughter’s collection

Length: 336 pp

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Year: 2012

This world, at war for decades, is ruled by dragons. The land is broken and bleeding and all are suffering because of the wars between the seven various groups of dragons. A prophecy states that after 20 years of war, a group of dragonets, born under special circumstances, will come to unite the dragons and bring peace. These dragonets – Clay, Glory, Tsunami, Starflight, and Sunny – have been taken from their native homes, hatched together in a hidden cave under the mountains, and raised together against their will by dragons working for a group called the Talons of Peace. Their purpose is to raise these dragonets to fulfill the prophecy. The problem is, the dragonets have ideas of their own, don’t really want to be part of a prophecy, and just want to find their families and be normal dragons. And there are other factions who are not interested in bringing the war to an end.

This was a relatively fast read, or would have been if I wasn’t reading it as a bedtime story with my daughter, just a chapter or two per night. She loves this series, but Pern, it is not. It’s super violent for a middle grade book, which I don’t really like. It did provide for some decent discussion about why prophecies are illogical and false, a good exercise in using her critical thinking while still reading a fun story. It also shows how even the most bitter of enemies can learn to get along if you get to know each other, or are raised together and can overlook each other’s differences, i.e., nobody is born a racist. But in general, I didn’t find the actual story to be all that compelling or the writing that good. It was fine for what it was, which is a story my 8 year old enjoys, though I wish she enjoyed something less violent. I am determined to get her addicted to the Dragonriders of Pern. It WILL happen!

Medusa the Mean

12052534Medusa the Mean (GoddessGirls #8) by Joan Holub

I read it as a: paperback

Source: our own collection

Length: 240 pp

Publisher: Aladdin

Year: 2012

In Medusa the Mean, there are only two things Medusa really wants – to be immortal like her sisters and the popular girls and for Poseidon to like her. To achieve these dreams, Medusa decides she needs The Immortalizer, a magical necklace she saw advertised in a magazine. The problem is that it doesn’t seem to work, of course. In the course of trying to become immortal, Medusa is also trying to find the perfect wedding gift for Zeus and Hera’s upcoming wedding, try to figure out how to bond with the kindergarten buddy she’d been saddled with, and make sense of the weird visit to the Grey Ladies she’d been forced to attend. And, since this is for pre-teens, there is plenty of angst and wondering about why she kinda likes Dionysus when her crush is on Poseidon.

I actually liked this one quite a lot. I’ve enjoyed the others well enough, though I think most are too involved with crushes and getting crushes and who likes whom, and hetero-normative reinforcement. But this one, though it had its share of crushes, focused a lot more on things like why Medusa was so mean. She was one of a set of triplets, but her parents treated her like she didn’t exist. Her sisters were born immortal but not Medusa. She was bullied in her hometown and had no friends. She is excluded from everything and to protect herself from being hurt, she starts shutting people out and being mean to keep them away. Which is completely normal, and really fucking sad. This is a great example of why you treat people nicely and try not to be a dick, because it can have real repercussions for people when you aren’t.

When we were reading this together, there were many times when my daughter said she felt really bad for Medusa. So did I. It opened up a dialogue of why kindness matters, and why maybe some people behave like they do. I’ve always told her that people who are mean didn’t get enough hugs when they were children. This is why we read literature, because it teaches and reinforces empathy. I don’t like all of the GoddessGirl books very much, but this one was definitely a win.

Artemis the Loyal

61tdlmrcvll-_sx334_bo1204203200_Artemis the Loyal by Joan Holub

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 288 pp

Publisher: Aladdin

Year: 2011

In Artemis the Loyal, Artemis is on a mission to convince Principal Zeus, King of the Gods and Ruler of the Heavens, that it is not fair that the Olympic Games are for boys only. She is an excellent athlete and wants to compete, as do many other girls. Artemis goes on a mission to convince Zeus to change his mind and allow girls to have their own girls-only Olympics. Simultaneously, he twin Apollo is determined to take on the Python of Parnassus in a battle of wits. Artemis is concerned because the python can read minds and she knows Apollo can’t tell a lie, so she thinks he will lose. She tries to discourage him from entering the contest and inadvertently causes a rift between them, which is heightened when Apollo utterly scorns her attempts to get Zeus to sign off on a girl Olympics. Artemis has to learn when to lean in and when to let others learn lessons on their own in this latest installment of Holub’s GoddessGirl series.

This was a fun and quick read with my daughter at night for a bedtime read. It was a little more progressive and feminist than the other books in the series thus far in that it had a lot of focus on gender equality. I also liked the theme of figuring out when it is ok to be pushy and try to help and when you need to back off and let others figure things out for themselves. That is something a lot of people need to learn.

I still think the books in general are too focused on what other people think and on hetero-normative crushes, but it wasn’t AS big a focus in this one as in others and it provided a couple times to have a good chat with my daughter about a few things.

Ellie’s Story

22238177Ellie’s Story by W. Bruce Cameron

I read it as a: hardback

Source: my daughter’s collection

Length: 208 pp

Publisher: Starscape

Year: 2015

My daughter and I read books together at bedtime, and we take turns picking which book to read. Last time, I chose The Hobbit; this was the one she chose to read. It is a cute story for little kids about a search and rescue dog named, surprisingly, Ellie. The narrative takes us from the time she’s a pup with her littermates to her first trainer, Jakob, learning how to do her job, and on to her second and presumably final trainer, Maya. Jakob teaches Ellie how to be a search and rescue dog, what it means to Work, and Find, and Show in relation to lost people. When Jakob is shot in the line of duty and retires, Maya takes Ellie and becomes her new partner. They work together for many years until an injury forces the police department to retire Ellie herself. Rather than not having any job for her dog to do, Maya convinces the PD to let her use Ellie as an outreach program dog, teaching the community about the important work search and rescue dogs do every day.

My daughter ate this book up. It took a while to get through it since we only read it together at night before bed, but it was sufficient to keep her engaged. It is definitely written for much younger or less skilled readers; I mostly found the stories of the rescues to be repetitive and a little boring after a while, but the basic story was good, and since it is for children, that’s just fine.

One thing I particularly liked was that there was room for discussion with my daughter about some of the bad things that can happen. When Ellie and Maya went to the site of an earthquake to search for people, there were a lot of casualties. It was not a gory or very upsetting scene, likely because the narrator is Ellie herself and she didn’t quite understand that the people she found were dead. She only thought they smelled odd and they weren’t happy to be found like normal, so that was upsetting to her. But I thought it was important to include a scenario in which not everyone was found, or wasn’t found alive. That’s real life and I think it’s important not to shelter children from that. We talked about that a little bit so that she could understand that sometimes bad things happen, but I also took that opportunity to remind her about Mr Rogers and the helpers.

Something I think was not at all well done was the way body image was addressed with regard to Maya. It is written in a way that makes her sound inadequate compared to her male counterparts who are also out of shape. She is described as being unable to keep up with Ellie or with other officers out in the field, huffing and puffing and often in pain, whereas the men are rarely described as such. It was particularly gross when her mother told her now that she got certified to be Ellie’s handler, she needs to eat, making it sound as though she was starving herself to lose weight. Not a good message to send to young children. The only good thing about it at all was showing how hard Maya worked to get in shape, but even that has some drawbacks in that it highlights how her body was somehow imperfect or not up to par the way it was. It was obviously good enough to be a patrol officer, so she can’t have been too terribly out of shape to begin with given that there are physical fitness requirements for that position, but it made her sound like she belonged on My 600-Pound Life or something. This could have been handled better.

Overall, Ellie’s Story was a cute book to read together with my kid, and it offered some decent material for discussion with her. She had read it before on her own, which is fine, though I am glad I could read it with her so we could talk about some of the things I felt were important to address.